In mid-December, hospitality veteran Andy Hooper took possession of the former Burgerim space in Mountain’s Edge to transform it into a neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Four weeks later, he opened El Luchador Mexican Kitchen + Cantina.
“We thought it was gonna take a lot longer because of permitting, licensing, and stuff like that but it just flew by,” he says.
Hooper originally wanted to build the restaurant in a 4,000-square-foot space in a strip mall next to Locale Italian Kitchen, his standout Italian restaurant in Mountain’s Edge. When COVID hit, he shelved those plans.
Instead, he opened the 2,286-square-foot restaurant with a patio with room for 75 and a window for takeout orders.
Chef Aaron Bryan was a regular at Locale and spent a lot of time talking about Mexican recipes he wanted to add to the El Luchador menu. When Hooper got the keys on December 14, the two started hammering out dishes, revamping the space, and redoing the bar.
“We wanted to make sure it’s a place that locals can come and get really good Mexican food and an atmosphere that’s not PT’s,” he says, adding that the restaurant comes sans the smoke and gaming found at the local 24/7 giant. Hooper wants locals to come to watch the Vegas Golden Knights or NFL games while doing a shot of tequila or drinking a margarita. Outside, the restaurant has its own patio along with an additional patio for the strip mall with picnic tables. Customers can order an enchilada for takeout and eat there for social distancing.
Hooper says he grew up in Tennessee loving WWE and WWF wrestlers, and he considered el luchador, Spanish for the fighter, the coolest. One wall of the restaurant designed by Hooper’s wife Jen Augle Hooper features a laminate of the El Luchador logo and fighter that looks weathered and worn. Another wall features luchador masks. Stainless steel and handmade shelves line the space, along with a lot of natural light.
“We were really lucky that a lot of the stuff in here was built out,” he says. “We just came in and just did a lot of redesign of the furniture and fixtures.”
Lunch rolls out soon, along with a late night on the patio. Right now, the restaurant stays open until 9 p.m. since much of the crowd in Mountain’s Edge finishes dining by then or a restaurant needs to stay open until 1 a.m. to capture the late crowds.
Hooper’s restaurant plans aren’t finished quite yet. He has another he wants to open in Mountain’s Edge, and two more in Dallas and Nashville.